Sunday, 28 January 2018

Heteronormative Holidays

Holidays are a huge part of my life, but that doesn't always mean that they're smooth sailing, and likely even less so if you're a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and twice fold again if you're travelling with a partner or group of people in the same community. This isn't a post about how this needs to change (you can totally find one of those that I wrote a while back here) though it really, really does, but this one is a little more light hearted, because I want to talk about how awkward it can be when I go on holiday and rock up with my fiancee. I know, it's unusual, me being awkward - but stick with me here.

Let me make it clear that for most LGBTQIA+ people travelling, feeling awkward is often the least of our problems; but it's still definitely not nice. It's all too often that Katy and I rock up to apartments and hotels to be faced with staff who laugh whilst apologising because they 'didn't realise we were friends/sisters/colleagues and so they've given us a double bed!' They offer to change it for us, they point out extra beds, hand out extra linen. When it happens it's awkward to explain, more awkward not to - it's something that Katy and I have come to joke and laugh about, but the fact it's happening in 2018 isn't actually all that funny at all. 

When you start to notice casual heteronormativity in holiday destinations, it seems to spread like wildfire - men on stag dos asking if you and your sister would like to nip out with them for a drink, people round every corner telling you if you go to certain bars you might find a 'nice man', not being able to sit on that bloody sofa to play cards and drink because it's set up as a second bed for the phantom man in your relationship. That was all a bit dramatic, but you get me. It gets old quick when people always assume that your girlfriend is your wing man, a relation to you, or someone you know well enough to share a bathroom but not a bedroom with.

As attitudes get slightly more liberal, travelling gets easier every time we go away (and to be fair, I just care a lot less than I did the first time around). It gets easier again when see that some companies now are offering gay friendly holidays (and of course, they're generally LGBTQIA+ inclusive, though they don't always state it that way). Getting to a villa where you can sit on the sofa without having to battle with a duvet that you don't need! People realising that you and the woman you're travelling with might want to share a bed! What larks! Such a novelty!

Seriously though - this post is all my own opinions but is in collaboration with James Villa Holidays, who are going out of their way to make their villas LGBTQIA+ and gay friendly. By rights I know all holidays and venues should be - but until that's a reality, this could be a godsend to people starting to travel as a couple; or to anyone who just wants to stay somewhere you don't have to worry about justifying yourself to; until that's every location, they're definitely worth a peek.

If you have any 'is that your sister' stories, please leave them below; after writing this I'm worried maybe me and Katy just look super alike.

Sammy xo.
Post written in collaboration with James Villa Holidays, however all views, opinions, words and, sadly, sister stories are my own.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Things I'm Most Excited About For Disney World

So I know we said April for booking Disney World, but if you have either me or Katy on twitter then you'll know that that went completely out of the window and Disney World is officially booked, and we're all but ready to jet off to Florida. Best of all though, we're no longer waiting and waiting for 2019 to roll around to go, because we are going this September; the deal was just too good to pass up on. You might know that, second only to Katy, Disney is my one true love; and so you can imagine the excitement that I'm trying to keep inside at the moment. To help just a little of it spill out (and I have to let it spill out or I'll burst), I've decided to write a post solely dedicated to the things I'm most excited for when we head to Disney World.

1: Seeing the castle
Paris has one of the smaller Disney castles and seeing it for the first time last year I felt like it was a kind of magic that nothing else really compares to, and so I'm absolutely thrilled that later this year, I get to see the beautiful, and very imposing, big castle that Disney World has to offer. Granted, it doesn't have a dragon in the dungeon (probably my favourite part of the entirety of Disneyland Paris) but it does have an actual restaurant inside it, so swings and roundabouts.

2: Dole Whip
For real, you don't need to tell me how pathetic this is because I already know. Really, Sam? A top four list and one of the things that you pick is a bloody soft serve ice cream? Well, yeah. Some Disney food is just iconic in a way that you rarely see food items become, and so you best know that I'll be getting those Instagram shots of dole whips, Mickey pretzels, Mickey premium bars and Darth Vader waffles, and you better all like them.

3: Halloween!
As we'll be heading out in the middle of September, Halloween will be well under way in all of the parks. Not only will we get to go to the iconic Universal Halloween Horror Night, but we'll also be buying those Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Tickets and trick or treating to our hearts content. Am I probably going to miss the parade and most of the excitement to queue and meet Jack and Sally? Yes, probably. Am I going to love every minute and gorge myself on American sweets when we get back to the hotel? Yes, definitely.

4: Epcot
Come on, this one explains itself, surely? The world showcase is definitely something brand new to me, and something I am desperate to go to. I'm going to buy stuff I have no need for from every singe pavilion, I'm going to spend so much money on sweets from all around the world and I'm going to love it the most out of all of the parks, I literally already know. I'm a sucker for theming and most shops, so really Epcot is like the dream for me.

They're the things I'm most excited about, but if you have something you think I should be excited about, definitely leave it below!

Sammy xo.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Exploring My Home Town: Liverpool ONE

Okay so, spoiler alert, Liverpool isn't actually my home town; a tiny peninsula across the water is my actual home town. Nevertheless though, I grew up in and around Liverpool, from a city full of pigeons and winding streets with rubbish everywhere, to the Liverpool we know now (or as it's commonly known, post-europeans capital of culture 2008 Liverpool). ONE of the biggest additions to the new Liverpool that made it the city that it is now, and perhaps ONE of our most recognisable landmarks, is Liverpool ONE - and that's what I'm going to be talking about today.

Liverpool ONE is a huge outdoor shopping complex, spread across two main streets with multiple connecting streets running between the two and if you're heading out to Liverpool anytime soon? You could realistically do it without even leaving Liverpool ONE. Most of our biggest shops reside here, from my favourite Waterstones, to Harvey Nichols Beauty Bazaar (complete with treatment stations upstairs for hair, makeup and nails alike!) and from Utility (the coolest homeware brand you've ever seen in your life) to Victoria's Secret. It's a shoppers dream, and it could easily take you the best part of a day to get round if you want to see every shop that they have to offer.

If shopping isn't your thing? Liverpool ONE comes complete with a park, cafes, coffee shops and best of all, bars. Looking for something hot, or something sweet to get you through the afternoon? Try the Starbucks under the steps opposite John Lewis for a completely bizarre Starbucks experience (think; a cave, with a Starbucks in it). For something a little bit stronger, head up to Chavasse Park on the top level of Liverpool ONE to the Tavern on the Green, or even The Club House (a bar that looks like a huge boat has been docked on the top of the shops if you look at it from above).

Once you've had your fill of coffee and alcohol, it's definitely time to line your stomach, at which point you'll definitely be spoilt for choice. Head to staple chain options like Wagamama, Zizzi or Wahaca; or, alternatively, try something a little different with Yard and Coop (a chicken restaurant, though their 'not chicken nuggets' are truly one of Liverpool's best food offerings) or Lunya (a Catalan deli that serve some of the most authentic tortilla and empanada in the North West, I swear down). You're never more than about 10cm from a top restaurant in Liverpool ONE, so take your pick and chow down.

The best thing about Liverpool ONE though? For me, but also for most people - it's so easy to get to. It's around a ten minute walk from Lime Street if you're coming in from outside Liverpool (and you'll pass some lovely bits and pieces on the way from the station) or if you're coming from within Merseyside or Cheshire, just hop off at James Street, and you're a literal stones throw away from the best shopping experience Liverpool has to offer.

If you've been, definitely leave below what your favourite things about Liverpool ONE are!

Sammy xo.
  Post written in collaboration with Liverpool ONE, however all views, opinions and words are my own.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

The Year Since Fluoxetine

It's been over a year since I stopped taking fluoxetine, and I guess that I've put off writing this post. The thing is when you talk about your mental health a lot, and you're brutally honest, is that you want to show people both sides of the coin. When I was ill, I wanted awareness of all of the awful, true things that came along with my extreme depression and anxiety, and I had it in my head that when I came back and discussed it properly again, it had to be something really big and inspiring. After a lot of thinking I've realised that this doesn't have to be inspiring at all, like my mental health posts have always been, this just needed to be one thing; honest.

In pretty much every way, the past year has been much better than many of the ones that came before it; we're engaged, we travelled so much I lose track of the countries that we went to, Katy and I settled into living together. My depression didn't plague me every day, I had next to no days where it felt impossible to get out of bed. Things have definitely been better. Though, I have to say, maybe not as much better as I might have liked. That's not to say I'm not grateful, not lucky, not happy; but it's easy to forget in the swing of things how big a part anxiety has always played, and will always play, in my life.

Some days it just creeps up on me, or turns up unannounced, or makes it impossible to remember what life was like before it. I have days and days without it, and then suddenly it's like running into a brick wall, and my whole life is a series of 'what if's, and I can't concentrate past this vague feeling that something might go wrong. It's less frequent, and big issues are few and far between, but that doesn't feel like much of a consolation when I'm lying crying and stressing about something I said to someone six months ago in passing that they definitely don't remember.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder is something I'll live with forever, and it's so easy to forget that; so easy to rest on my laurels when it's going well and so easy to forget that it'll come back one day. It's hard to get my head around the fact that I might still be lying awake worrying about these insignificant things in ten years time, or that my kids might struggle with this like I do one day. I haven't wanted to talk about my life with generalised anxiety disorder because I'm so aware that it can only get better to a certain extent, it'll always be that family friend that you can't quite shake.

There's no point to this post except to fill the void I'm acutely aware I've avoided filling since I've stopped taking my anti-depressants, and I wanted to be honest, I want this on my blog in case it makes one person feel just a little less alone in their 'recovery' process.

Sammy xo.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Places In The UK We'd Travel To If We Had A Car

It's pretty much the bane of my life that Katy and I don't have a car. For both of us, it would make life a lot simpler - only day to day it's really not that practical as we both have to pass through toll booths on the way to and from our workplaces and university campuses. Having said that - it really doesn't stop us dreaming about where we'd go if we did have a little run around; foreign holidays are fun, but UK travel trips are cheap and easy (and we could go somewhere like every weekend instead of every month or few months). So, without further ado, here are the places that Katy and I would travel to if we did have a car.

1: Stonehenge
Katy's dream location, and one that's a pain to get to. We have always wanted to go here since we got together, but to get here we have to pretty much take a day trip to London and get the coach from London, through other tourist attractions, to Stonehenge. It's expensive, would allow us about an hour there and all in all it's just never seemed that worth it to go down that route. When we have a car though, this is definitely top on our list of priorities.

2: Edinburgh
A place that Katy has never been to, and a place that holds a real place in my heart. We have blog friends here, they have good cupcake places here, and I'd just love to see one of the magical places that I've ever been to without the sheer amount of crowds that came when I went last in the midst of the Edinburgh Fringe festival. Going and staying a few nights here could be really cheap if we could drive, and so fingers crossed this will be one of the first places that we go to when we do get a car.

3: Chester
This is, admittedly, really close to home but getting here takes longer than getting to Manchester from our house as you have to rely on trains. There's some really good escape rooms here, really good food and pretty scenery - but most of all it's where Katy and I used to spend most of our time together when we first met and one/both of us went to university here. Chester is just a place that holds some real nostalgia for me and I do wish we could visit more, without taking four hours travel time out of our day to practically do so.

Although this definitely is a wishful thinking type post, it is written in collaboration with TyrePlus who want you to #testyourtreads. Keeping your tyres in working order isn't just something that is vital to your safety, it's actually something you need to do by law, so for tips on how to do so, check the infographic below.

So now that you've tested your tire treads, checked you're safe to go and read where I'd like to travel, make sure you leave below where you'd travel if you had a car (or where your first ever big trip was to if you already have one!)

Sammy xo.
  Post written in collaboration with TyrePlus, however all views, opinions and words are my own.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Holiday Plans For 2018

2018 was meant to be the year of very few holidays. You may recall me declaring on Twitter that we were buckling down, I was working hard on uni and didn't have TIME to go travelling to Europe at the drop of the hat anymore. We cancelled two holidays, I passed my oral exam, worked hard and kept my head down. My fucking god have the past four months been boring. Slowly but surely holidays have crept into our plans for 2018 - my family were going on holiday, we could just pop along, we could go just after my exams for a few days. Slowly but surely, we have a collection of holidays that have crept up on us; and it's safe to say that 2018 is far from the year of no holidays. So, for anyone who lives vicariously through the incredible amount of holidays we take; here are the plans so far.

Next month we head to Lublin, in the South of Poland. It's a small City with lots of beautiful churches and botanical gardens, with nearly no presence on Atlas Obscura , my go to website; something that both excites and alarms me. For 50 zl, or about £10, for the both of us, we could also book a train to Warsaw - and so on the Monday of our trip, we're heading over to Warsaw for just a day. Poland will always hold such a place in my heart, and it's somewhere Katy and I have always felt incredibly at home - so I'm just so excited to be there, and to adventure around two new places. I've just to get those exams over first, so we can truly enjoy it without feeling guilty because I should be revising.

Depending on some bits and pieces in the pipeline we might have a trip in April, all of which will be revealed soon if we pull it off - otherwise, our next trip will be May. Before we get there though, I have an honorary mention for April because we're more than likely going to be booking Orlando around this time. We have to wait until 12 months before our trip (which seems very long away now I'm writing this) for Disney room rates to be released, but we probably would have held out for the Disney Dining Plan anyway so it works all round. Technically not a trip we're taking this year, but a huge trip that we're lucky enough to be booking this year. Then come May, the aforementioned next holiday will be to Stuttgart. There are a lot of car museums here and it's just a strangely fascinating place to me, so that will definitely be very exciting.

Next up in July we're going to be meeting my family in Andalucia, but first we'll be spending three days in Morocco, and two days in Valencia. I'm so excited about both of these places, I can't wait to adventure new streets and just be in the heat. We have a lot of recommendations for Morocco so I think it'll be a packed three days, then after our two days in Valencia we'll be getting the train through Spain to Andalucia where my dad will be picking us up to take me to my Spanish home. I'm pretty excited about this trip, and a lot less excited about having to admit to my mum there's a fair few tattoos on my body she doesn't know about. Wish me luck on that one.

After this we're winging it waiting for cheaper flights to release - but we're pretty sure we'll at least be doing a holiday in November/December and another in January/February 2019 before we jet off to Disney. 2018; the year of no travelling? We all should have known it wouldn't last.
If you've visited any of the places I'm visiting please leave any hints, tips or must sees below!

Sammy xo

Monday, 8 January 2018

Sale Shopping with B&M

I'm not opposed to a bit of sales shopping - for me it's always the cheaper the better and so when B&M gave me a little bit of spending money and sent me into their shop I was definitely in my element. Disappointingly our local B&M had very little in the way of reduced Christmas offerings, and I wasn't willing to travel into the cities around us for sheer fear of the crowds, however the good thing about B&M is how affordable they are - sales or otherwise. I wasn't let down in the slightest and we managed to treat ourselves, the dog and Katy's mum with change (I mean barely, but change is change) from a £20 note. There's no half priced Christmas decorations in sight either, I promise.

I'll be honest - this heavily comprises of candles. One of these we definitely knew we were going to buy though, and that was the Woodland Wick Layered Candle in White Flower, Blue Sky and Fresh Linen and this was a pretty damn affordable £4.99. We have a gorgeous candle from this brand that's vanilla scented and it really does throw it's smell all round the room (that sounded a bit gross didn't it? You know what I mean) so I was desperate to grab a different scent. We have so many beautiful candles (cough Diptyque) that we didn't use for so long because they were so expensive, only to find that when we actually did burn them the smells were practical undecipherable. Count me in for a candle that will give you change out of a fiver that also smells amazing. Truth be told, I only really photographed these today because I wanted to burn it.

If we would have only got the first candle I would have left the shop a happy girl - but Katy spotted the Yankee Candle Simply Home in Bermuda Beach so we also grabbed one of these. This is the identical scent to Pink Sands in the original Yankee Candle collection, and it also set us back £4.99 - though for a much smaller candle. I'm not mad about it being smaller, you do pay for a name, and it's definitely not a bad price for a Yankee - but I would have gotten a new Woodland Wick if I was given the choice between the two, though they say (future) marriage is all about negotiation. Whilst in the candle aisle, we also grabbed some small votives - a mixture of Yankee and otherwise. In the Yankee Home Inspiration range we got Spiced Orange and Clove and Clear Mountain Lake, and we also grabbed a Chupa Chups offering in Strawberry and Cream which were all 89p each. In other supermarkets by me these votives come in around £1.10 so you're saving only 20p a candle, but in the long run if you buy five candles, you've saved yourself enough for a medium fries or a cheeseburger so, that's worth considering.

Finally, moving on from the candles, we got something I genuinely thought was really cool - the Nuage Skin Tattoo Moisturiser. I like to Moisturise my tattoos even when they're all fully healed, but branded versions of this can cost a small fortune so when I saw this I was pretty pleased to pick it up for £1. This hasn't got any SPF in so bear that in mind, but if you like to Moisturise your tattoos and make the colour pop before a night out (just me?) This could be the perfect addition to your body care drawer, especially for a pound.

I have to say that I was really pleased with B&M - though I shop there all the time, I felt like there were some really good hidden gems when I was actually looking for things worth the money. In the eyes of being fully honest I do have to admit we also bought some Mike and Ike's, but I ate them. Additionally we also bought the dog a princess Leia rope chew toy but good luck fighting that out from her grumpy jaws. I'm on a bit of a bargain kick now, so if you've found any good offers or bargains, please do let me know! If you're looking to see what your store might have in the sale, you can find that part of the B&M website here.

Sammy xo.
Contains PR samples/items gifted to me by companies - however all opinions are my own. Please view my disclaimer for more information.